Michael McCarthy

mccarthybirds_nestsIn 2006, Canberra was honoured by a visit from poet and spiritual director, Fr Michael McCarthy. An Irish Catholic priest, Fr McCarthy was spiritual director of ordinands at Ushaw College, Durham, where he became a friend of St. Mark’s Director, Prof. Stephen Pickard, in the 1980s. Sadly, Fr Michael died on 10 July 2018 after a short illness. He is buried in Drimoleague in County Cork. His final collection of poetry was accepted for publication just a few days before his death.

Michael’s first published poem was in 1995 when he was aged age 50. in 1997 he won the Patrick Kavanagh Award for Birds’ Nests and Other Poems. I tracked down a copy. These are the first and the last in the book.

Let me be mad for awhile
unhinged; by some passion
made daring and deliberate

lured into the heart’s motion
into the wild asunder
the broad and daredevil sky

inebriate with longing
mad with love or poetry
the dangerous delirium of flying.

In this madness we will meet
young in our reckless hopes
old in our dreaming

shaken loose and shocked
we’ll sorrow, salt our crying.
We will not regret

how it made us different
changed our looking hearts
until we could see blind.

After the Wedding

I leave the revellers at midnight.
Southbound on the M6 the phone rings
and before answering it, I know.

At 9.30pm tonight my mother died.

The car cruises, the curve of the wipers
responding to sporadic showers.
My engines have shut down.

Dull at the edges, raw in the centre
I can feel my toes tingle.
Yesterday she sat out in the sun.

I wait an hour, then call you.
I hear the texture of your voice
as you retell each moment slowly.

This morning she said to you “I’m dying”
and you asked “are you afraid?”
She told you she was not.

After the priest had come and blessed her
with the final rites, the day went quietly.
She slept a little now and then.

In the evening she told Ita she was going.
“Maybe I’ll wait until the morning.”
In the event she didn’t.

At 95 years, and conscious to the last
her breathing stopped. I ask about
distress. You say there was none.

Arriving home at 3.00am,
there are nine messages on my Ansaphone.
I don’t need to answer them.

I check the Internet for flights, then walk outside.
In a while I hear the first birds sing.
Memories begin.